If it seems to you like I’ve been dividing my time between chocolate shops of Paris and visiting Korean épiceries, stocking up on gochujang, cochutgaru, and gokchu garu, you’re right. The odd thing is that the Koreans understand me better than the French. They’re always surprised when I speak a few words of Korean and last week, I met some wonderful Korean gals that were pretty surprised to see me filling my shopping basket with chile peppers, fermented shrimp, and garlic-chili paste.
Since the state of recipes—like my French—are always in a state of flux, after my first batch of cabbage kimchi (which came out pretty darn good), I kept thinking of ways to improve it. That, coupled with a newfound addiction to fried rice and French-style omelets with kimchi, meant I was going through it at an alarming rate.
So I headed over to Ace Mart on the rue Saint-Anne, loaded up my shopping bag again, and armed with The World’s Most Expensive Scallions (3.8€, or $5.50 a bunch), I set out to make the penultimate batch of kimchi.
I adapted Alex Ong’s kimchi recipe from Betelnut restaurant in San Francisco, who uses vinegar in his recipe. I don’t have a restaurant-sized group of people to feed, so I made a smaller batch and swapped some ingredients. But by the time it was done, it really compacted quite a bit. So if you have a big colander, or a big appetite for kimchi, feel free to multiply it upwards.
There was definitely something appealing about the perkier taste of this kimchi than my previous batch as this one gets chopped, salted, and weighed down overnight, rather than brined, which helps the cabbage retain more of a crunch and isn’t so salty.
The contentious issue with kimchi is whether to refrigerate it right after you make it, or to let it stand a day or so at room temperature to let it ferment. I let mine go about four days and it was powerful enough for someone the next morning to comment on my odeur fort. Oddly, the next time I visited, no one in the Korean market mentioned anything about the way I smelled.
About 3 cups (750ml)
You may wish to wear disposible latex gloves when handling the kimchi mixture.
- 1 large Napa cabbage (2 pounds, 1kg)
- 2 tablespoons coarse salt (do not use fine table salt)
- 1/3 cup (80ml) white rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons Korean chili pepper paste (gochujang)
- 1 tablespoon very-finely minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons coarse Korean chili powder (gokchu garu)
- 1 tablespoon very-finely minced fresh ginger
- 4 scallions, sliced in 2-inch (5cm) batons, including the green part
1. Remove the tough outer leaves of the cabbage and slice it lengthwise in half. Remove the core.
2. Cut the cabbage into 2-inch (5cm) pieces. Toss the cabbage with the salt in a large bowl, then transfer it to a non-reactive colander. Set a plate on top then weigh it down with something heavy for 24 hours.
3. Mix together the vinegar, chili paste, garlic, chili powder, and ginger in a large, nonreactive bowl.
4. Add the cabbage in handfuls to the marinade, taking small bunches at the time and squeezing them of any excess water before adding them to the marinade. Mix the cabbage with the marinade, adding the scallions as well.
5. Pack into a jar, cover tightly, and let stand at room temperature 48 hours, then chill for 4 days before serving.
UPDATE: I updated this post with new pictures since I originally posted this recipe and you might notice I’ve put a slivered Chiogga beet in the batch shown in the photos. You can add a daikon radish (8 ounces, 240g) peeled and cut into batons) or even carrots if you want. Another idea is to add an Asian pear, peeled and cut into batons, instead. Sometimes I also add a tablespoon of fish sauce to the chili paste mixture. Happy fermenting!
Related Links and Recipes
Kaktugi: pickled daikon (Cooking with Maangchi)